Alex Lykos: Using Both Brains in Film Distribution

May 13, 2019
On the eve of the release of his film Me & My Left Brain, writer/director/star/distributor, Alex Lykos [pictured with co-star Malcolm Kennard] tells us about the hopes and learns of releasing your own film into cinemas in Australia.

Your new film Me & My Left Brain is out in cinemas on Thursday. Tell us a little about it.

Me & My Left Brain is my second romantic-comedy, after Alex & Eve, and my first as a director. It stars Mal Kennard (Catching Milat) and Rachael Beck (Hey Dad) and Chantelle Barry (Entourage). It centres around the role of the inner-critic and how our inner-critic can drive us mad, especially someone who is now in his mid-40s and hasn’t achieved any of life’s milestones and the paralysing effect dwelling on not fulfilling life’s expectations. Additionally, in the spirit of early Woody Allen, the film explores concepts of friendship love and romantic love.

What made you want to tell this story?

Two reasons mainly: I have cut my teeth in the theatre. And generally, after a play is written, it is not more than 6 months before said play is in front of an audience. So, for someone who suffers from ADD, Alex & Eve was a frustratingly slow process for me. Me & My Left Brain was written with a lower budget in mind which allowed for quicker turnaround time. Secondly, Alex & Eve was a comedy which relied on what is now known as “ethnic comedy”. As a Greek-Australian, I wanted to try and tell a more cerebral comedy which didn’t rely on “ethnic comedy.”

The music is composed by award-winning composer Cezary Skubiszewski (Red Dog, The Sapphires). How did you get him on board?

The editor of the film, Miriana Marusic (DOP of The Castle), whom I got so lucky to have met on this journey, was pleased with our rough cut. She thought the film was coming together nicely. Being a fan of Woody Allen’s work, I’ve seen how jazz music compliments comedy really well. So, when it came to looking for a composer, I really liked Two Hands, which had a jazz piece, and noted that Cezary had scored it. I reached out to him, showed him the rough cut, he seemed to like it and he liked the idea of an all-jazz score and off we went. One of the more thrilling elements of making the film was the recording of the pieces. We went down to Melbourne for a few days, Cezary treated us like family. Watching him and the musos do their thing was quite memorable.

Who is distributing the film?

Panoramic Pictures. It is a new distribution company we have formed.

What made you decide to distribute this film yourselves?

If I made a big-budget movie to be shown on 200 screens, I would not have even considered distributing such a movie. You look at Top End Wedding, the distributor has done a marvellous job delivering this lovely rom-com to the cinemas and the box office has reflected the fusion of a real good movie distributed by a seasoned distributor with a legitimate marketing campaign.

For Me & My Left Brain, we felt like it was a film perfectly suited for a platform release. We have been putting on stage shows for 12 years and have built a small but loyal fanbase, a lot of which went to see Alex & Eve the movie.

When I made Alex & Eve, my first film, I was a naïve filmmaker and I didn’t know anything about the process of making a film, let alone distributing a film. In fact, I didn’t even know what the word distribution even meant. Of course, I got a crash-course on distribution with Alex & Eve and learned a lot of lessons.

What were some of those lessons learnt?

The first one was that the filmmakers don’t actually make any money in the making of a film – whatever fees they get on the front end is all they will make. The exhibitor (cinema) and the distributor are the ones who make the money. The cinema gets a percentage of the ticket price. The distributor gets the rest. Additionally, the distributor continues to receive money until all marketing expenses are recouped. I wish I had known this before we made Alex & Eve.

Was it challenging dealing with cinemas?

More so frustrating because cinemas wouldn’t get back to us. For example, we approached one cinema for about 3 months and never heard back. Finally, 3 months out from our release, the programmer finally responded and said he wouldn’t look at the film because they book their films 6 months in advance.

What made it a little easier was that we were not looking to get the film on more than a handful of cinemas. We feel like playing the film in a few hand-picked cinemas, the hope is then for the film to do a bit of legwork and build some word-of-mouth.

If I may take this moment to make a comment on Event Cinemas: we are in 3 of them. And I must say they have been outstanding to deal with. We are first-time distributors with an independent film, yet they have been real supportive.

What have been the advantages to distributing the film yourselves?

We have an intimate knowledge of our audience. We know where our fan base lives, so we have targeted cinemas in those areas. For example, a lot of our fanbase live in Earlwood, Bexley, Kingsgrove, Beverly Hills, so the first cinema we sought was GU Film House Beverly Hills – whether they go or not, I am not sure, but at least, we have given them the easiest opportunity to go.

We had the idea to do a “Premiere Day”, that is, a morning premiere and a night premiere – something different. When you are distributing yourself, you can action such an offbeat idea.

And finally, we know exactly how much money we are spending on marketing because we are the ones doing it – there is no risk of any phantom expenses.

What were some of the disadvantages?

Cinema owners didn’t know who we were and at first didn’t take us so seriously. So, it has been a battle to secure things like prominent positioning of poster in cinemas and of course getting our trailer played before films with a similar genre.

Once we secured our date with cinemas back in January, weeks later we were told the Federal Election would be called for 18th May. We tried to move the dates but being such a small player, we didn’t have that flexibility.

Do you see Panoramic Pictures distributing more films?

Yes, absolutely. We have built some nice relationships with the cinemas, so the second time round will be much easier I suspect – but again, we would only have the resources to distribute “small” films on platform release.

What’s next for Alex Lykos?

I haven’t been writing much over the last couple of months because focus has been on the film’s release but I have two films and television series at various stages of development which I will focus on once film is released.

Me & My Left Brain is in select cinemas 16th May, 2019

For cinemas and session times –

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